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Monday, October 26, 2009

Developing a Positive Perspective Through Reframing

Often, the way that we respond to a situation has a lot to do with our particular perspective and attitude about it. One way to help yourself to look at certain situations or problems is to "reframe" them for yourself. By reframing, I mean looking at the same situation from a different angle to come up with other creative points of view.

Developing a Positive Perspective Through Reframing

Here are a few vignettes that are examples of reframing:

Peg:
Whenever Peg met Susan for lunch, she would feel so annoyed because Susan was habitually 15 minutes late. Peg would sit and fume, thinking about how busy she was and all the things that she needed to do, and here she was sitting and waiting for Susan.

One the one hand, she felt like she was wasting her time waiting for Susan when she could be taking care of some of these other things. On the other hand, she also liked Susan very much and she didn't want to give up their lunches together because of Susan's problem with lateness.

One day, as she hesitated to pick up the phone to invite Susan to a lunch that she was sure Susan would be late for by 15 minutes, she decided that she needed to find another way to deal with this problem. She knew that she didn't have the power to change Susan, nor did she want to.

So, she thought about what change she could make, without giving up their friendship, where she could feel that her needs were being met. That's when an idea popped into her head: Instead of sitting and fuming about all the things that she needed to do, she could bring some of those things along with her and take care of them while she waited for Susan.

Developing a Positive Perspective Through Reframing

It seemed so simple that Peg couldn't believe she had not thought of this before. So, the next time that she met Susan, Peg brought her checkbook and some of her bills with her as well as her Blackberry to respond to email. When Susan arrived 15 minutes late, as usual, Peg felt that she had taken care of what she needed to do for herself and she could now relax and enjoy Susan's company instead of being distracted with her own annoyance and impatience. What Peg did was take a situation that was normally annoying to her and reframed it for herself into a time when she could do some things for herself.

Linda:
Linda was a receptionist in a small firm. She had worked there for many years. One of her duties was to keep the daily appointment calendar listing clients who were coming to visit managers. She had never become accustomed to using the computer to keep track of these appointments, relying on a basic appointment book instead.

Linda was extremely meticulous about this appointment book. Her supervisor thought she was meticulous to a fault. In fact, Linda was a perfectionist. She hated it whenever anyone crossed out names in the book or when there was any kind of messiness.

She would sometimes scold the managers if they crossed out anything in the book, but she refused to write in pencil. She had very set ideas about what was appropriate and what was not. Her supervisor spoke to her a few times about trying to be more flexible in her approach and warned her that if she continued to berate the managers, she would be written up.

Linda decided that she needed to change her attitude about this, but she wasn't sure how to do this. Then, one day, one of the managers approached her desk and told her that one of the clients cancelled his appointment. Linda noticed that her supervisor was standing nearby watching her reaction as this manager crossed out the client's name in the appointment book. Linda held her tongue.

After the manager walked away, Linda's supervisor approached her and suggested to her that this could be a chance for Linda to reframe this situation for herself: It could be an opportunity to practice letting go of her perfectionism. Linda thought about it for a few minutes and the more she thought about it, the more she liked her supervisor's suggestion: Instead of getting angry and frustrated, she could use this situation to practice. After a while, Linda was able to reframe for herself what was once an annoyance as a challenge to change her attitude and, over time and with practice, her attitude did change.

John:
John was really looking forward to a game of golf with his buddies, but it was too windy and rainy to play so they called the game off. He was momentarily disappointed, but his attitude was "Everything happens for a reason." While he was thinking about how he could spend his day now that the golf game was cancelled, he received an unexpected call from his former college roommate. He hadn't heard from this roommate more than 15 years, since his roommate moved to London.

Developing a Positive Perspective Through Reframing

He was amazed to hear that his former roommate was traveling back to London and his flight had an unexpected four-hour delay in NY. He wanted to know it he could stop by to see John. John was thrilled and within 30 minutes they were having drinks in John's living room and talking about old times and getting caught up on the last 10 years. The idea suddenly flashed in John's mind that if the weather had been nice and he and his buddies had gone out to play golf, he would have missed seeing his former roommate. So, what started out as a disappointment for John was reframed in his mind as an opportunity to see an old friend.

Reframing: An Opportunity For a Positive, Creative Response
The vignettes above are simple examples of reframing. I'm sure you can think of many others where you can challenge yourself to reframe what is usually an annoyance into an opportunity to have a more positive, creative response:
  • Getting stuck in traffic
  • Dealing with a rude sales clerk
  • Waiting for a train that is late
  • Being placed on "hold" for a long time
  • Missing a flight
With practice, reframing becomes easier to do. When we reframe our experiences, we use our creativity to look at the same situation in a different way. Reframing helps us to deal with stressful situations in a more effective way. Often, we can find a lesson that can be learned from a particular problem. The facts of the situation remain the same, but we reframe the issue for ourselves so that we develop a new perspective about it.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many clients learn to develop new perspectives to old problems through reframing.

To find out more about me, visit my web site: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or send me an email: josephineolivia@aol.com

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